Heartbreak delivered by a few dozen tiny paper cuts.




Love stinks in these 29 microfictions about cheating, divorce and all kinds of splitting up.

These sometimes sublime, sometimes raunchy slices of love lives coming apart by Czyzniejewski (English/Missouri State Univ.; Elephants in our Bedroom, 2009, etc.) can often sound like flash fiction, having largely been culled from previous publications in obscure literary journals, galleries of poetics and, yes, flash fiction websites. Taken at more than a surface level, though, they more closely resemble molecular gastronomy—a medium where a creation’s parts are transformed through close attention and high pressure into something completely different. In “We Were Young,” a new relationship takes a wrong turn in the middle of a long train ride: “This wasn’t where she wanted this to go. I was all love letters and she wanted to know who I’d fucked over.” “Pregnant With Peanut Butter” portrays a man using his severe peanut allergy to indulge a lover’s preoccupation with sexual asphyxiation. Introductory lines are also compulsively composed to keep your attention, as in “I flew back to Dallas when the dog died prematurely from plastic surgery” or “Instead of getting married, I insisted that Julian and I rig an election.” There are a few nods to magical realism and absurdity—superheroes in “When the Heroes Came to Town” and the “Fuzzy Stuffed Animal Candy Council” in “High Treason,” for example. Yes, a few are a bit twee—“The Braxton-Carter-Vandamme-Myers-Braxton-Carter Divorce: An Outline” unfortunately speaks for itself. Others, like “Hot Lettuce,” about the travails of the bassist-concubine of a heavy metal band, or the hopelessly titled “The Meat Sweats” are cartoonishly vulgar. Yet some, like the portrait of grief in “Bullfighting,” do manage to get it right.

Heartbreak delivered by a few dozen tiny paper cuts.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-940430-28-7

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Curbside Splendor

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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